Being Safe on the Water


Tandem canoeing. Courtesy of Johnson Outdoors
Tandem canoeing. Courtesy of Johnson Outdoors

Plan for an enjoyable safe paddling trip  by learning and remembering a few basics.

Before you head onto the water, tell your plan to a friend on shore or at home where you will be going and for how long,  in case of emergency.

Wear It Logo 150x150Life Jacket or
PFD (Personal Flotation Device)

Always wear one when you’re paddling.


Paddling Conditions: Water +  Air + Weather Forecast

  • Be aware of the current water conditions and take extra care or waiting if recent rain has the river rising, if a storm is brewing, or if the water and/or air are cold.
  • Watch the weather to prepare for local conditions and electrical storms. When you are on the water, head to shore if you can see or hear a storm.
  • Water sometime seems calm when it can be deep, swiftly moving or decorated with dangerous rocks or obstructions below the surface.

Swimming and Safety Practices

  • If you’re planning to go paddling you just may take a spill while you’re learning!  Being in the water a normal part of being on the water. However,  you should be comfortable swimming if you are off your stand up paddleboard or out of your canoe.
  • Keep up-to-date on CPR procedures.
  • Keep a safety kit on your boat if you you have space to store it, otherwise with your gear on shore.
  • Don’t mix paddling with drinking alcohol.
  • Supervise children continually regardless of their swimming abilities, even if they are wearing life jackets.

Paddling Etiquette
On a river,  for instance a person who is heading downstream always has the right of way. If you are about to move out from a resting spot when another person is in the current and about to go by, you should let them pass.

Check out this video from the folks at the Safe Boating’s Wear it! Campaign. They are ready  to get the spread the word to share the importance of wearing pfds!

For more information on boating safety, including safety when using motorized boats,  visit the National Safe Boating Council.

Stand Up Paddleboarding – Give it a try!

SUP in the Tetons. Photo courtesy of Jack's Plastic Welding
SUP in the Tetons. Photo courtesy of Jack’s Plastic Welding

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is a great ways to get out and discover new ways to combine exercise and fun on lakes, rivers and open water. Fans of SUP love this option because it’s easy to get started on a stand up board. As with any other watercraft, contacting an outfitter who can show you the ropes and provide expertise on your first or early mini-journeys is a great way to get started.

You won’t be alone out there on your SUP.  According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation 2013 Outdoor Participation Report, 56% of all the first-time participants of outdoor activities in 2013 were to try Stand Up Paddleboarding.

You need only a few basic items to get started: your outfitter will provide all you need for a first time out. Check our Outfitter Search by Activity to find an SUP outfitter near you.

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Czar XUP. Photo courtesy of NRS

Stand Up Paddleboard
They come in many shapes and sizes in both rigid and inflatable designs. The sizes range widely: it’s best to start out with one that is nice and wide, and therefore stable. Longer boards, like other boats, are likely faster so will make better time when paddling long distances. Shorter boards are likely more nimble and better for turning, surfing and paddling on moving water and whitewater rivers. When you visit an outfitter you’ll likely try a model or two they have determined good for first SUP experiences.

Werner Fiji SUP Paddle. Photo courtesy of NRS
Werner Fiji SUP Paddle. Photo courtesy of NRS

Stand up paddles are similar to canoe paddles, but are much longer since you stand when using them, vs. sit while paddling a canoe. They are available in a wide variety of materials with a variety of blade and handle, or grip shapes.

A leash is familiar to those used with surfboards, connecting you with a hook-and-loop closure strap at your ankle to your SUP. Since SUPs can be paddled on different bodies of water, regulations for wearing leashes vary, as well. Check with your outfitter or those who have paddled Stand Up Paddleboards where you are headed to learn the local requirements.

PPA Safety - NRS Vapor_PFD 78x101PFD (personal floatation device)
It is ALWAYS good practice to wear a Coast Guard approved pfd, even though they may not be mandated if you are within a swimming zone at the beach. There are many great looking, comfortable pfds designed for SUP paddlers.

Preparing for the Water and Sun
The weather and water conditions help you know what’s best to wear.  If it’s hot and sunny and the water is warm, shorts or a bathing suit may be fine, combined with a shirt  that won’t get in your way as you paddle. If the water is cool or cold, you should consider wearing a wetsuit or drysuit for you may spend a good deal of time in the water!

Remember to wear your favorite waterproof sunscreen and sunglasses, and reapplying sunscreen during the day.

A few strokes will give you confidence to get out to where you are going to paddle, maneuver when you are out, and back to your home base with confidence. Your outfitter or instructor should provide the basics of a Forward Stroke, Back Stroke and Forward and Reveres Sweep Strokes used for turning.

There’s plenty of time left this season to find an outfitter near you who can introduce you to SUP.  Have fun!

September, 2014 Paddling Events

September 5
5th Annual Midwest SUP Masters
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
This family-friendly event includes Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) inspired activities and demos. Starting friday withe a Paddle Clinic and get together . Races on Saturday: Short Race, Long Race, and Kids 1 Mile, Pooch Race, with other activities throughout the day. Sunday: Yoga on the beach, social paddle, swap and demo.

100 Mile Paddle: NYC 2014
New York, New York
This is a two-day adventure paddle race for relay teams and elite paddlers.

September 6
2nd Annual California Paddle
Redding, California
Race Whiskeytown Lake with tons of other SUP enthusiasts at the second annual event.

The Butterfly Effect
Lake Tahoe, California
Join Tatiana Howard and ‘Butterflies’ at the Butterfly Effect’s Lake Tahoe event, which features a day of fun and female empowerment, including a downwind run on SUP, kayak, kite or windsurf, as well as lunch, surprises, and more.

Carolina Beach SUP Challenge
Carolina Beach, North Carolina
3-mile race and 1-mile fun challenge around the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin with all proceeds supporting Ocean Cure, a local 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to giving free surf lessons to medically fragile and at risk youth and adults.

Paddle for Tomorrows
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Standup paddle board race 100% benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Enjoy awesome races, recreational paddling, plus free food and entertainment at the after party! Categories include: 5 mile, 3 mile, and 1 mile with 14′, 12′ 6″, and surf style board divisions. Youth race for children 13 and under.

September 7
Round the Rock Race & Expo
Seattle, Washington
Test your speed against some of the top paddlers on the planet as you paddle 13 miles around Mercer Island. The Elite Paddlers will be competing for big prize money in the unique “Sweep or Weep” format, where various board length classes try to steal the purse from those on longer boards.

September 12,13
Nemacolin Trace Parkersburg Paddlefest 
Parkersburg, West Virginia
Enjoy a beautiful paddle down to the historic Blennerhasset Island. Tour the Blennerhassets Mansion, camp on the Island, Friday and Saturday nights.  The river will be shut down Saturday morning from all power boats.

September 13
Wai Kekoa Water Warrior Festival
Camp Pendleton, California
Join Marines and water athletes in 5K and 10K distance races, or the famous Amphibious Assault Race (Elite and Open Races). Battle your way through the exclusive Camp Pendleton waters where Elite racers will tackle a loop course that includes both surf and flat water, while the Open age group loop is exclusively on flat water. The Amphibious Assault courses include water and land obstacles to determine the ultimate Water Warrior Champion.

Hope Floats Paddle Classic
West Palm Beach, Florida
Our unique event will take place on September 13th and will include paddle crafts from every variety including, outrigger canoes, surf skis, prone paddleboard and stand-up paddleboards. The elite paddle race will consist of 6 miles and 6 technical turns through the palm beach intracoastal. Our spectator friendly course will stretch from the Okeechobee bridge to Flagler Memorial as racers will be paddling fast for cash and giving hope to three amazing charities. $2000 in Prizes!

Paddle AC
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Part of the Atlantic City International Triathlon & Seafood Festival weekend celebration, this is a 100% spectator friendly event. The paddle features a FLAT & FAST 5k race and a Fun One-Miler on the back bay of AC. Who’s SUP for the challenge?! Part of the 2014 SUP CUP Series.

Ku’ono Paddle Series
Hampton, Virginia
The East Coast Ultimate Paddle Challenge brings SUP Racing to Virginia’s peninsula with the Kuʻono Paddle Series. Coursing through the Hampton River, where the infamous Blackbeard’s head was displayed, racers will compete in 12 mile, 6 mile, and 2 mile events. For SUPs, kayaks, and canoes.

One Square Mile of Hope – 2014 Guinness World Record Event
Inlet, NY
The Kiwanis Club of the Central Adirondacks and the One Square Mile of Hope 2014 committee have formed a strategic partnership with the goal of retaking the record while again raising funds to help with breast cancer research and awareness.

September 13 – 14
2014 US SUP Tour Final Stop
Huntington Beach, California
Two days of competition will include both open and technical racing as well as a surf competition to decide the members of Team USA.

September 14
Tahoe Fall Classic
Lake Tahoe, California
The 22-miler wraps up the SUP series with a bang. The final race of the three-part series has racers take off from South Lake Tahoe’s Camp Richardson, racing to Kings Beach in North Lake Tahoe. After the long haul, participants and spectators can enjoy food and drink, demos and an awards ceremony.

Great Peconic Race
Shelter Island, NY
Great Peconic Race is an expedition paddle race circumnavigating Shelter Island, NY, located between the North and South Forks of Long Island. The race honors Ted Baldwin’s love for the bays and proceeds will be donated in support Rogue Wave Foundation work to help east end children build confidence and self esteem

September 15 – 21
Huntington Beach Pro Grand Slam
Huntington Beach, California
The Standup World Tour and Series come together for a week of racing in sprints and distance events, and competitive surfing. The competitors will be stepping up their game as the Finals at Turtle Bay is all that will remain after the SoCal stop.

September 17 – 21
Whitewater Slalom World Championships
McHenry, Maryland
The Adventure Sports Center International is the prestigious venue for the event and is the Only Mountaintop re-circulating whitewater course in the World. Be a part of history!  Olympic level athletes from over 35 countries will be competing for the Gold! This is the 25 year anniversary of the 1989 World Championship in Garrett County, Maryland and only the second time in history this event has been held in the United States.

September 19 – 20
American Whitewater’s Biggest Fundraiser!
All proceeds from the festival support American Whitewater’s river conservation and access works throughout the nation. Started in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have disrupted the flows on the Gauley River, Gauley Fest has grown to become the largest paddling festival in the world.  The festival will feature live entertainment, a whitewater marketplace, raffle, and a silent auction where you can pick up some awesome outdoor gear. Come out and join us for a weekend of great paddling, exciting camaraderie, live entertainment, killer boat raffles, and the infamous silent auction.

September 20
Muddy Run Canoe/Kayak Race 
Muddy Run Park, Holtwood, PA
There are three different courses and over 40 different classes for canoes and kayaks. This race is for all skill levels.

Urban Kai King and Queen of the Bay
Tampa, Florida
Urban Kai King and Queen of the Bay features a long-distance elite race, a 3-mile recreational race, a Kids’ race, sprint races, and beachside after party with live music.

Junior Waterman Challenge and Ocean Fest
Sarasota, Florida
This is a youth only SUP race for ages 5-17. All levels of paddlers are welcome. Great prizes for all races! Stay for Ocean Fest too—Ocean conservation groups, vendors, food and lots of fun water themed activities.

September 20 – 21
Triple Crown of the Upper Keys
Tavernier, Florida
A 3-race series featuring the best unique paddling environment of the Upper Keys. Involves paddling through both mangrove creeks and through open water. 

2014 Battle of the Bay 
San Francisco, California
Stand Up Paddling will take over the San Francisco Bay in the 4th Annual Battle Of The Bay Race and Expo! This year in addition to SUP & Prone Paddleboarding, we are inviting our OC1 friends to join us! Our new location at the East Beach at Crissy Field in the Presidio National Park will make this awesome race even more exciting as we take on the San Francisco Bay!

September 21
Butterfly Effect (BE) Movement
Coronado, California
A non-competitive event for water women of every level. Events include a non-competitive paddle, SUP Yoga post-paddle, a catered luau, and sponsor giveaways. Paddle with Roxy’s Gillian Gibree and meet other pros in the industry.

September 26 – 28
2014 Lake Murray SUP Classic
Lexington County, SC
In its third year, this event features clinics, races for all skill levels, parties and even a SUP swap meet. The Lake Murray SUP Classic is part of the Southern Stoke Race Series, a summer series of races set in rivers and lakes throughout the Southeast. Race proceeds benefit South Carolina Special Olympics.
West End Loop Paddleboard Race – Two Harbors, California

September 27
West End Loop Paddleboard Race 
Catalina Island
This unique and adventurous 16mi course will take both prone and SUP athletes around the rural and rugged west end of Catalina Island, beginning and ending in the town of Two Harbors.

Island Paddle’s G-Bay Paddle Race 2014
Galvaston, Texas
The Island Paddle Race Series was created to bring the paddling community together to share the love of the water by providing competitive and family friendly race events. We want to welcome everybody from a beginner to a seasoned stand up paddler, canoer, or kayaker, with fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. We support local community businesses, as well as local and national charities that protect the ocean and support a healthy lifestyle through water sports

Shark River Paddle Battle
Neptune, New Jersey
The Second Annual Shark River Paddle Battle is a Non-Profit paddle race and event benefitting Mary’s Place by the Sea and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We have a Long Course (5 Miles) race for more competitive and experienced paddlers, and also a Short Course (2.75 Miles) fun paddle for cruisers. B.Y.O.P (Bring your own paddle)!!

Wilderness Trips

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Maurice River, New Jersey. Photo courtesy of the River Management Society (RMS)

Once you discover the beauty and good times of paddling  on easy going black water rivers or through tumbling whitewater rapids you’ll never forget the experience, and will hopefully return for more!  And, as grand as the paddling you’ve experienced may be, you can jump from awesome to life-changing  by paddling a wilderness river.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells us that ‘wilderness‘ means “a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings (2) :  an area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community.”  

When paddling  a wilderness river you can’t help but focus on the river’s viewscape and its critters, unaffected  by the audio-visual distraction of  buildings and vehicle-laden roads and bridges. Wilderness paddling may require  a long ride or even a flight to get to the river outpost and your outfitter and you’ll probably spend a night (or two, or three, or ….) camping.  Your investment of time and effort will be rewarded many times over!

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Lower Owens River. Photo courtesy of RMS

‘Wilderness’ rivers are ‘wild’ due to laws that protect rivers and  immediately adjacent land from further development.  The nation’s treatment of our environment changed dramatically in the 1960’s with the passage of the Wilderness, Clean Air, Clean Water and National Environmental Policy Acts – and the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

In the past 50 years, we have learned—all too slowly, I think—to prize and protect God’s precious gifts. Because we have, our own children and grandchildren will come to know and come to love the great forests and the wild rivers that we have protected and left to them . . . An unspoiled river is a very rare thing in this Nation today. Their flow and vitality have been harnessed by dams and too often they have been turned into open sewers by communities and by industries. It makes us all very fearful that all rivers will go this way unless somebody acts now to try to balance our river development.
– President Lyndon Johnson on signing the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968.

Wild River Areas – Those rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and generally inaccessible except by trail, with watersheds or shorelines essentially primitive and waters unpolluted. These represent vestiges of primitive America. WSR ‘Wild’ rivers include the Allagash River in Maine, Wind (and over two dozen others) in Alaska, North Fork American in California and Owyhee in Oregon.

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Snake River Raft and Surfer. Photo by Max Mogren, courtesy of RMS. The Snake includes both a Wild section and a Scenic section.

Scenic River Areas – Rivers or sections of rivers that are free of impoundments and  are largely primitive. Their shorelines are largely undeveloped, but they are accessible in places by roads. Federally protected Scenic Rivers include the White Salmon River in Washington, Bluestone River in West Virginia and Wolf River in Wisconsin.

Recreational River Areas – These are rivers or sections of rivers that are readily accessible by road or railroad, may have some development along their shorelines, and may have undergone some impoundment or diversion in the past. National Recreational Rivers include the Manistee in Michigan, John Day in Oregon and Lamprey in New Hampshire.

For more information on the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and rivers ‘the Act’  protects, visit  Find a wild rivers you’d like to paddle, then search our Outfitter Locator by those rivers!

States also have protected rivers with their own or additional designations.  If you are interested in learning more about state Wild and Scenic Rivers, contact the office of your state’s Department of Natural Resources.